When Allison came home after spending a day in Northern Indiana doing research for an article she is writing about the Amish community and the RV industry, she told me she had sampled the best doughnut of her life. She said the locals call them “Amish Crack” because they are so delicious and addictive. I’m not a baker; most of my cooking involves dishes that are tasty – but fast! (Visit the Yates Yummies blog) Roy always laughs and says everything I make takes 15 minutes tops, so I’m not geared to the patient process of waiting for dough to rise. Plus I lack a basic understanding of the chemistry aspect of baking. However, after Allison found a post on Finding Harmony Blog that documented the author’s attempts at duplicating Rise’n Roll Bakery’s Cinnamon Caramel Doughnut, I had a desire to join in on the search for a recipe. What a wild ride! After several attempts I managed to cover every surface of my kitchen with a thin layer of flour and/or confectioners sugar and had some spectacular failures (think rock hard or envision a tire deflating). I’ve documented what I learned below, along with the recipe I finally settled on. If anyone out there tries it, I would love to hear feedback! Likewise, if there is a better recipe for these delicious morsels, please share! To print out the recipe, scroll down to the bottom of this post and click on the “button”.
Just a quick aside – above and below are photos I took in 2015 while visiting Amish Acres in Nappanee , an attraction/museum dedicated to preserving historic buildings of the early Amish settlers in Indiana.
We spent three days in Nappanee while our motor home was being serviced at the Newmar Corporation. We were able to take a factory tour and experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance watching hustling Amish workers string yards and yards of electrical wires onto the RVs being built.
We also traveled to Shipshewana (above left, and right) and LaGrange (above lower photo right). Except for the slow moving vehicle sign in the back, seeing the horse and buggies is like going back in time.
The Amish try to keep their old ways while living in the modern world…
But let’s talk about the legendary doughnuts.
In the comments on the Finding Harmony Blog post, several people stated that they felt like potato was the secret ingredient needed to make the fluffy doughnuts. First I tried yeast-less potato dough, then potato dough with yeast. I also gleaned ideas from this recipe for Amish Doughnuts.
Here is what I learned:
- Resist the temptation to use a food processor to mix potato dough. The less handling the better or else the doughnuts will be dense, not fluffy. I realized that if I let the potato “melt” into the yeast water and then added it to the flour mixture, I could combine all the dough ingredients together with a fork.
- Grease the parchment paper that cut-out doughnuts are laid to rise on, or else they stick like crazy.
- Too long a second rise time made the doughnuts puff up so much the hole closed and when I tried to move them off the paper, they deflated. I fried a couple anyway and now I know why doughnuts need a hole; the middle stays raw when the outside is done.
The Caramel Glaze:
The Finding Harmony Blog post included two possible caramel glaze recipes; one used brown sugar and the other white sugar from the cook book Homemade Doughnuts: Techniques and Recipes for Making Sublime Doughnuts in Your Home Kitchen by Kamal Grant (Quarry Books, 2014). The white sugar recipe was tricky since it involved heating the sugar to caramelize it, but the flavor was truly superior.
Here is what I learned:
- The white sugar turns to burnt sugar very quickly once it starts to change color. Err on the side of caution and pull it off the heat sooner than later. It is tricky.
- When caramelizing the sugar it will turn into a hard ball when other ingredients are added to it. After searching for information on how to correct it, I found a What’s Cooking America post that advised adding a drop of lemon juice to prevent the problem.
- However, while the drop of lemon juice improved the situation, it didn’t entirely prevent all of the water/sugar mixture from hardening up on my stirring spoon and in the bottom of the pan. I found that heating the cream up in the microwave for 20 seconds so that it was warm, but not curdled, helped a lot.
So here’s the recipe that resulted from all my experimentation:
Amish Crack Doughnuts – Yields About 2 Dozen Doughnuts
1 (around 10 oz.) potato
4 cups water
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup shortening (such as 1/2 of a Crisco Baking Stick)
2 packages yeast
Large bottle of vegetable oil (about 24 oz.)
Extra self-rising flour for rolling out dough
Ingredients for Caramel Glaze:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 drop lemon juice
3/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Ingredients for Cinnamon Powdered Sugar
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Directions for Doughnuts:
Add the Peel and cube potato. Place in sauce pan with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes and reserve the cooking water.
While the potato is cooking combine the all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
When it has cooled down to a warm but not hot temperature, place two cups of the potato cooking water in a medium sized bowl and pour the yeast over the top of it. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until it looks smooth but foamy. Give it a stir.
Use a ricer or push the cooked potato through the holes of a colander. Don’t worry if the potato just ends up being mashed. Add the riced or mashed potato to the yeast water and give it a stir. The potato will sort of dissolve and disintegrate into the water.
Melt the shortening and allow to cool slightly. Whisk the eggs together. Add the melted shortening, whisked eggs, and yeast/potato water to the flour mixture and store with a fork until it is combined. Don’t knead.
Grease the inside of a very large bowl with shortening or butter. Place the dough in the middle and cover with a tea towel. Allow to rise until double. This can take a couple hours, depending on how warm the room temperature is.
After the rising period, punch the dough down and place on a self-rising flour covered surface or pastry cloth. Knead just a couple times, then roll out to a 1/2 inch thickness. Using either a doughnut cutter or a glass turned upside down that is about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out doughnuts. (If using a glass, cut holes out of the middle with an empty spice bottle or something similar.) Place the doughnuts on a baking sheet that has been covered with well greased foil or parchment paper. Cover with tea towels and let rest/rise for 1/2 hour.
Pour the vegetable oil in a large sauce pan. Heat to between 360 and 375 degrees. If working without a candy/cooking thermometer, the oil will be ready when it shimmers and a doughnut hole is surrounded by simmering bubbles when dropped in.
Fry 3 to 4 doughnuts at a time, about 2 minutes on each side. They will be lightly browned. Place cooked doughnuts on cooling racks which are on top of paper towels.
While the doughnuts are still warm, dip them into the Caramel Glaze (recipe below). Finish them off by placing the Cinnamon Confectioner’s Sugar (recipe below) in a fine mesh strainer and giving each doughnut a dusting.
Directions for Caramel Glaze
Cut the butter up into small cubes and set aside. Place the sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Stir to combine then place over medium heat and allow to simmer/boil without stirring for around 7 to 10 minutes until the mixture browns but doesn’t pass to the burning point. Do not walk away from the stove! It takes a while to get it going, but once it gets to a golden brown color, it quickly goes to burning. Once it is golden brown, remove the pan from the heat. Heat the cream in the microwave for 20 seconds so that it is warm, but doesn’t boil or curdle. Whisk the warm cream, a little at a time, into the sugar syrup. Add the butter, a little at a time, while continuing to whisk. Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar, salt, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.
Direction for Cinnamon Confectioner’s Sugar
Place the confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and stir until blended together.